With just a week remaining in President Donald Trump’s administration, his Office of the Controller of the Currency (within the U.S. Treasury) promulgated a “Fair Access to Financial Services” rule on Jan. 13 which has angered Wall Street and, no doubt, annoyed Windsor Castle and the Old Lady of Threadneedle Street. The rule, if enforced, would appear to rule “green finance” out of order in the United States banking system, in spite of the Network of Central Banks and Supervisors for Greening of the Financial System which the Federal Reserve just joined after four years of being scared out of it by the President.
The rule prohibits banks—although not using this term—from “redlining” companies or funds because they invest either in energy technologies, in agriculture or ranching, or in arms and armaments. No bank, under the rule, may decide or threaten not to lend to or invest in a group or class of companies or funds, as for example, coal and oil and engineering companies have been threatened out of fossil fuel power projects in African and South Asian countries under Mark Carney’s sundry central bank committees and “taxonomies.” Rather, the bank must provide the OCC with criteria and data supporting each case of “redlining” of each single company, and show that those criteria are financial, not climate, social or “governance.”
Wall Street is very unhappy at this OCC action, as evidenced in the complaints in three consecutive days’ lead stories, Jan. 14-16, on the website of American Banker the ABA’s publication. Wall Street’s TV channel, CNBC, reported Jan. 14 that the rule “is not just opposed by the largest banks, but faced widespread opposition from legal scholars and environmental, social and governance experts.” Right up to Prince Charles, no doubt. If the Federal Reserve and the biggest Wall Street banks cannot coerce oil and coal companies into building big wind farms instead, farmer cooperatives into swearing off fertilizers and pesticides, ranchers into cutting their livestock herds, Joe Biden’s rejoining the Paris Climate Accord might be a hollow gesture.
CNBC tried to reassure by quoting one “expert,” that “one way or another, this rule is not long for this world” under a Biden Administration. But it shows the adversary Trump remains to the Green Deal, and should be paid attention to and fought for.
What the rule does, in effect, is what China and Russia and India do to make sure that their companies in the above sectors get credit—the difference being, that those countries make official statements welcoming the “zero-carbon” targets of the Paris Climate Accord while placing them decades off into the future. They are all involved in offering nuclear and clean-coal technologies to developing nations. Those are still first among the nations with which the United States can collaborate in nuclear development, space exploration, and in fact a new Bretton Woods credit system for such development.
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